Exodus 16-18

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Our Father in heaven,
hallowed be your name,
your kingdom come,
your will be done
on earth as it is in heaven.
Give us today our daily bread.
Forgive us our debts,
as we also have forgiven our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation,
but deliver us from the evil one.

Now in the wilderness the people see needs beyond their slavery. They used to be slaves, and while slaves they had no freedom. But they had food to eat, and water to drink, and places to sleep.

Now they had freedom, but food was elusive, water was often bitter, and my guess is they didn’t have fresh straw beds every night.

They were God’s now, not the Egyptians. The Egyptians were a lot more predictable. Predictable is satisfying. Freedom is dangerous and filled with risk. Yet in freedom one can take the leap out and journey to the place of blessing, the place of God’s promise. God isn’t predictable, even though he does promise. He’s not predictable because he is the daily God.

He is also the God of holiness. What is curious about this is the idea that his holiness is tied up in his creation and his holiness is reflected not in our busyness but in our rest. The manna comes, comes after complaints and more whining. It is the daily bread.

Yet there are those who want to run things their own way. On the one hand are those who will gather two days worth. They do not really trust God so they horde, just in case.

They think they know better.

On the other hand are those who cannot rest. On the day of holiness, when God seeks all to stop, these people continue their habits, not turning to God but still turning to their own interests. They work even though God said stop.

They think they know better.

The first group gets maggots for their hording. The second group gets nothing for their work. Only God’s will can be done on the way to the promise.

And, take note of 16:36 — “An omer is one-tenth of an ephah.” I think that cleared things up. It is interesting, though, because it appears to be a footnote to the text, for a later generation who needed earlier weights and measures explained, just as my footnote at the bottom says an omer is about 3 pounds, making an ephah about 30 pounds.

In 37 the folks get thirsty. Again with the complaints. They blame Moses and wonder why he brought them out of Egypt for “this”. Things really are worse. They feel their loss without seeing the promise in full. Sure there are miracles along the way but what are miracles when thirst comes?

They don’t have any trust. They don’t have any courage. They don’t have any hope. Imagine if they had gone the short way and faced battle right off.

But God provides. They begin to trust.

Battle comes to them now, a brief test. Still they cannot stand on their own but need the power of Moses, in whom God worked clearly, to be their morale. They were full of fear, except when Moses stood for them.

No wonder he didn’t really trust anyone else to help lead.

The people were weak and worried and fickle. So the one man who was strong thought that all the burden really was on him, confirmed by the fact the people proved this over and over.

He thought himself indispensable. He was Moses after all. Who else was standing up?

But that’s not the way of God. Only God is indispensable. And so Jethro gives some solid advice. He’s a wise man to be sure, even though he’s not one of the Hebrews and not within the covenant.

“Slow down, Moses,” he says. “Remember your calling, and do that. Don’t get so exhausted doing everything that you lose sight of what only you can do.”

Don’t collect two days worth of manna, and don’t collect it on the Sabbath. Don’t be greedy in power, and don’t assert more power than God asks. Let others participate.

In these passages, with the most basic aspects of life we are reminded of our daily bread. We are reminded of our place before God and our place among others. We are reminded to do what God asks, not too little or too much. We are asked to trust. We are asked to let go. We are asked to be generous and courageous.

Somehow I think these verses are not just a good story meant to remind us of God’s work many, many centuries ago.

I think God has reminded us in this present moment through these words. And he expects us to listen.

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